No election on Sunday, Christians tell India’s poll panel
The minority community which forms 41 percent of Manipur state’s population says it’s a day of rest and worship
Christian leaders and student unions in the northeastern state of Manipur have urged India’s election commission to change the polling date for the upcoming provincial election as it falls on a Sunday.
Assembly elections in five Indian states were announced by the commission on Jan. 8 with Manipur set to vote in two phases on Feb. 27 and March 3.
The All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM) and Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM) have urged the commission to reschedule the polling to any other convenient date other than a Sunday.
ATSUM in a statement on Jan. 10 said the scheduling of the election date for Feb. 27, which is a Sunday, was a matter of concern for tribal people and the Christian community in the state.
Khaiminlen Doungel, secretary of ATSUM, said that “the state predominantly consists of tribal Christians who account for 43 percent of the state’s population and Sunday is a holy and sacred day for them. It is also a day for rest and worship.”
Doungel said the commission lacked “the ability to appreciate the spiritual values, beliefs and practices of the Christian community. Its apathy is in fact antagonistic.”
Like other faiths, we too have the constitutional right to profess and practice our faith and urge the election commission to find a suitable date for polling
ATSUM said the decision to hold polls on a Sunday would prevent many eligible voters from exercising their franchise.
Shokholun Mate, general secretary of KIM, said there were “serious objections and complaints” as the decision to hold polling on a Sunday was bound “to hurt the religious sentiments” of the state’s Christian community.
Father Felix Anthony, the spokesman for the Catholic Church in northeastern India, told UCA News that the election commission “should have taken special care and attention while scheduling the poll date. It should have been more sensitive.”
Christians have an obligation to attend Sunday services and scheduling a poll on that day will affect their voting, he said. “Like other faiths, we too have the constitutional right to profess and practice our faith and urge the election commission to find a suitable date for polling,” he added
Christians make up 41.29 percent of Manipur’s population of 2.85 million, according to the Census of India 2011 report. Christians are a majority in five out of nine districts of the state.